Real Madrid Transfer News: Iker Casillas Shouldn't Leave the Bernabeu in 2014

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJuly 21, 2014

Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas gestures,  at the end of the Champions League final soccer match between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in Lisbon, Portugal, Saturday, May 24, 2014. Real Madrid won 4-1. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Conflicting reports regarding Iker Casillas' future at Real Madrid continue to surface, but Los Blancos have to do whatever they can to keep their longtime stopper at the Bernabeu for at least one more season.

Carmen Colino of AS claims Casillas has told Florentino Perez he doesn't want to leave the club during the summer, the exact opposite of what El Confidencial is reporting (h/t to Metro).

They claim the Spanish No. 1 has asked the cub to terminate his contract to facilitate a move to Arsenal on a free transfer.

Unless the man himself steps forward and tells the world what his intentions are, it's impossible to know which source is right. A consummate professional, it is unlikely we'll hear Casillas publicly asking for a transfer real soon.

Conventional wisdom says it's more likely for him to finish his career in Madrid, a place where he has built a family and enjoyed great success. But then again, conventional wisdom only gets you so far. This is football—there's no place for logic in the game.

Levante's Keylor Navas is widely expected to become Real Madrid's next No. 1, but as reported by Marca (h/t to ITV), even manager Jose Luis Mendilibar doesn't know what's going on with his stopper:

Nobody has told me anything about Keylor. He's still ours.

I don't know him personally, but they tell me he's a great professional… It's close to the date for his return and I only hope that things are resolved before then.

As long as there's no official confirmation of a transfer move, Los Blancos have two realistic options in goal: Diego Lopez and Casillas.

The latter has been with the team since 1999 and will no doubt end his career as one of the greatest goalkeepers ever to play the game. His performances in the past two years haven't been up to his standards, however, with the low point coming during the 2014 World Cup.

Casillas made costly mistakes against the Netherlands and looked shaky throughout the tournament, exiting the World Cup in the group stages. At the conclusion of Spain's ill-fated campaign, the message from pundits sounded loud and clear: Casillas is deteriorating, and his career should be coming to an end.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

That doesn't have to be the case, however. Casillas is still only 33 years old, relatively young for a goalkeeper. His struggles started the moment he was forced to split time with Lopez, and initially people assumed it was simply a matter of confidence.

Casillas is often compared to Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon, who is still minding the net for Juventus and was Italy's default starter at the 2014 World Cup.

Buffon stuck with Juventus during the Calciopoli years and kept up his high level of play for a very long time, but he went through a slump himself in 2012. The veteran made numerous errors in Serie A, but thanks to Juventus' smaller European stature, many of those mistakes went largely unnoticed.

Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

His dreadful performance against Bayern Munich was seen by the entire football world, however, and it even led to Franz Beckenbauer calling him a "pensioner," per NBC Pro Soccer Talk's Richard Farley.

The Bianconeri never lost faith in their longtime stopper and kept playing him, and in 2014 he was back to his old, superb self, leading Juventus to a third consecutive Serie A title and a record-breaking point total.

Perhaps the same thing is happening to Casillas. Players go through slumps all the time, but when you're a goalkeeper, even the smallest error can be fatal. We're not used to seeing mistakes from Casillas, making these slips in the past two years that much more noticeable.

But even if Casillas is deteriorating and no longer suited to be the No. 1 for a top club like Madrid, it makes sense to keep him around. The man is a legend in Spanish football history, on a par with Real greats like Raul and Alfredo Di Stefano.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

He's seen it all—Navas, or whoever is brought in to replace him, hasn't. The Levante stopper was phenomenal during the 2014 World Cup, but he has never played for a club where expectations are so high as Los Blancos.

Can the Costa Rican handle the pressure? Maybe, maybe not. But it wouldn't hurt to have an experienced, capable backup to help out just in case, and to help with the transition of going from a club like Levante to the mighty Real Madrid.

Los Blancos should do whatever they can to make sure one of their top players in team history doesn't leave the club right after a disappointing World Cup. Casillas should go with his head held high, when he's ready.

More importantly, he should go some other time. Real still need his services, whether it's as the Casillas of old, making one miraculous save after the other, or as a mentor and backup to a new stopper tasked with filling some of the biggest shoes in all of sports.